the averted gaze

I was recently given a list of interview questions and was quite unable to answer them. At first I felt that this was a reluctance on my part because I would be giving too much away. Then realised that actually, I am unable to know the answers. Whatever they might be, they don’t cohere into easily communicable forms and this un-gatherable logic enforces a kind of hiddenness.

There is a certain power to things left unshared and undescribed; to the averted gaze. Joshua Rothman writing in The New Yorker about Virgina Woolf’s sense of privacy, touches on this feeling of mystery:

Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you’ve been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It’s hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that’s one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life’s mystery; with leaving certain things undescribed, unspecified, and unknown;with savoring certain emotions, such as curiosity, surprise, desire, and anticipation. It depends on an intensified sense of life’s preciousness and fragility, and on a Heisenberg-like notion that, when it comes to our most abstract and spiritual intuitions, looking too closely changes what we feel. It has to do, in other words, with a kind of inner privacy, by means of which you shield yourself not just from others’ prying eyes, but from your own. Call it an artist’s sense of privacy.

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